Marriage in Totalitarian States
Totalitarian states can often have a weird relationship with marriage. By definition a totalitarian state postures itself as the supreme authority over its people. So when a marital relationship comes along with the two people proclaiming undying fealty for one another until death, I can see where the State may get a little jealous.
In the book Death By Government, the author mentions a few cases where the State got extremely involved in marriage.
Pg 183 – Death By Government, Chapter 9 – Cambodia Under the Khmer Rouge
Also in early 1977, “collective marriages,” involving hundreds of mostly unwilling couples, took place for the first time.
In Cambodia, the State was looking to rid itself of labor specialization and personal uniqueness. Doctors and engineers had much to be afraid of. They had to play dumb and hide their prior education and work experience if they wanted to live. One way of eradicating specialization and making it difficult to hide, is to tear down the family structure so that kids report on adults, and adult brothers turn on adult sisters. The Khmer Rouge went so far as to specify marriage between whole groups of people. Definitely an effective way to tear down the family structure. Not only that, but forced communal marriage assists to remove the uniqueness each marital couple finds within itself.
Pg 366 – Death By Government, Chapter 15 – Orwellian North Korea
In fact, the marriage may be denied if the couple is found to be too involved with each other, for dedication to Kim Il-sung must come first.
In North Korea they dealt with marriage differently. My opinion on the difference comes from the goals of the regime. The Khmer Rouge were still attempting to instill a communist country, they were still trying to force “the revolution”. In North Korea, the “revolution” is already done. All that’s left is dedication to the leader. So here, marital interference took place in couples where the State was obviously not first in the relationship. Like a jealous child the State interferes with a “me first or I won’t cooperate” attitude. This does have the effect of tearing down the family structure, but less so in my opinion then the Khmer Rouge collective marriages.
Making sure dedication to the Leader comes first in marriage: it’d be ridiculous if it wasn’t so sad.
The Current Marital Situation for the West
But most modern States do proclaim themselves first in marriage as the head arbitrator and head authority. It didn’t use to be that way, marriage was a religious ceremony with God (religion dependent) as the head authority. The State didn’t care about it as long as lots of marriages occurred to produce lots of kids for a healthier economy, increased tax revenue and more soldiers if anything.
Modern States proclaim their authority in marriage now by authorizing/not authorizing marriages. Similar to North Korea above, though not for such an obviously silly reason, though silly it still is. I hope this begins to change, in fact it may be starting already. Take a look at this article here: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/11/the-crisis-of-a-second-obama-administration Particularly this passage:
Thus it seems important to accelerate a serious debate within American Catholicism on whether the Church ought not pre-emptively withdraw from the civil marriage business, its clergy declining to act as agents of government in witnessing marriages for purposes of state law.
Boy, I sure hope so. I haven’t really discussed marriage here before but I think the State takes marriage too lightly, with not enough reverence, and it has turned it into a simple contract. Marriage isn’t a simple contract, simple contracts aren’t meant to be binding for life, regardless of the change of attitude in the contractors. Contracts are meant to be broken if it doesn’t seem tenable to either party anymore. Marriage should not so, yet the State has instituted no-fault divorce which tears marriages apart, harsh divorce laws and changing marriage definitions. None of these are anything the Church should be taking any part in.
If the Church were to withdraw from the civil marriage business, and turn strictly to religious marriage it would be reasserting God as the sole authority for marriage. As of right now however, even most churches seem to agree that the State and God are the authorities over marriage and that marriage is subject to them both. Sure, the Church should be subject to the general laws of the land, but only where such laws don’t interfere with God’s law. And Marriage is God’s.
Splitting Civil Unions and Marriage, a hypothetical
In the case of IF the Church did withdraw it would split marriage into a dichotomy. Religious marriage and tax marriage (or Civil Unions).
For example, let’s say this happened. How would the split be dealt with? Here’s my take: Religious Marriage could become a lifelong commitment with divorce being difficult in may situations, and probably requiring counseling before divorce as well as religious dispute arbitration for splitting up of goods and children in the event of divorce. Historically marriages were solid unless the marriage was a lie from the beginning (say the wife was already married), but would allow for forced physical separation if violence became mixed in. A Tax Marriage would be for benefits and tax savings; which isn’t really even marriage to begin with, it’s a Civil Union. It would probably continue in easy divorce and an unhealthy property split between husband/wife. Though hopefully if the Church withdrew it’s consent the State would kindly withdraw such marital presumptions from it’s unions and require a prenuptial agreement for original property, acquired property and future children.
If this were the case, then the State’s marriage authority could be reduced to just legal recognition of marriage without taking legal jurisdiction over it. A Christian couple could get married by the Church, then get the State to recognize the validity of the marriage for tax purposes. A Church married couple could NOT then go to the State for easy divorce as the State wouldn’t have the authority to do so.
The church could also choose to recognize state marriages that fall under their approved categories (single man/single woman, no divorced/remarriages maybe). Though I don’t really see the benefit to anyone to do so unlike going from church to state which has tax and paperwork benefits. A couple could get married by the state, then transfer jurisdiction to the church presumably and put themselves under the stronger counseling, arbitration, other clauses for divorce. Then the state would just reduce itself to simple recognition of the union for tax purposes.
Non-religious couples could get a civil union from the State, and receive every worldly benefit the State grants marriages. Only this way the Church isn’t forced to recognize disagreeable “marriages” as in the current situation.
Primary Issue with the Current Legal Marital Setup
The Church, by submitting itself to the laws as they are today, and giving the State authority over Marriage are effectively allowing the State to corrupt Marriage. The biggest corruption of marriage however isn’t gay marriage, it’s probably no-fault divorce. A gay couple getting married doesn’t do much to the mindset or faith of Christians, but considering the oft stated critic of Christian Marriage “Christians divorce just as much as Non-Christians” it’s really divorce that’s the issue for Christians. Granted, other studies have shown that the divorce rate is greatly reduced for actual, practicing Christians versus just nominal Christians, but that should be obvious. Isn’t it time the Church stood up, got a stiff back and took back what was rightfully given to it by Christ? Loving your neighbor surely means to not force your ideas on your neighbor, but it also doesn’t imply then that we should agree with everything our neighbor does. Christians have a right and a duty to create social pressure for acceptable behavior and acceptable practice for marriage.
Essentially, the Church needs to secede Marriage from the Union. 😉
This post is a continuation of a long series of commentary on quotes pulled from Death By Government by R.J. Rummel. The book itself is a real and horrific tome of how Power kills absolutely. Despite the negative outlook of some of the commentary, I do recommend reading it. Here are some quick links to posts related to this book: Short review of the book itself, all the quotes in one place, and a list of other commentary like this one.